It seems to me that a life spent with young children is made of varying textures and materials. There are the structures that give shape to your daily life, like the school day and activities and sports. These provide the skeleton of a schedule and also tend to dictate your community. These structures are brick; they build upon one another, make a shelter of sorts, and when connected with others, can make a whole street or even a neighborhood of people. ‘Bricks’ are where the terms ‘hockey mom’ and ‘football dad’ and ‘dance mom’ come from; so much of your time is spent with the parents of the kids your kids do these activities with, and it’s such a rare blessing when that time bears the fruit of real friendship.
Another material you come across often in a life spent with young children is hard, shiny plastic. It makes the toys, bikes, and games and in this analogy represents the ‘stuff’ that kids always seem to be asking for but which don’t tend to last or satisfy for long. So, the ‘plastic’ stuff can be toys or games but also anything that you bring into your life because some other kid has it or does it. Plastic is clutter and it doesn’t do much good, really, but every house has some of it.
The last kind of material you see in life with young children is yarn. Sadly, it’s rare to find yarn in homes these days. Yarn is the organic, carefree, fun, time that a family spends together that has nothing to do with a planned activity, game, or lesson. It’s a child sitting on a stool and talking while a parent is cutting up vegetables for dinner. It’s a song that gets everyone singing or dancing. It’s sprinkling blueberries into pancakes, or everyone on bellies on a rug playing cards. It’s telling stories or jokes under a cozy blanket. Yarn time never involves a screen, but instead it’s how you knit together memories, time, and meaning. It’s magic and precious and rare.
As I look back on that time with my kids, I remember the brick time, but I don’t miss it particularly except for the fact that, then, I always had a place to be. I’ve been to hundreds of soccer, baseball, softball, and basketball games as well as track meets, Irish dance, violin, and piano lessons and recitals, and they gave us such good times as well as some amazing people, but they are only a handful of moments from the ‘brick’ times that I hold close to my heart. They were times that one of my children surprised themselves with something done well, or when they worked together with someone else to create something beautiful, or when they seemed truly joyful in a particular moment. Soon after I stopped going to a particular field, that particular ‘brick’ experience just kind of fell away because as wonderful and productive as that time was, it was so seldom truly important and it never provided a sense of a lasting identity in the kids or us.
The plastic times were easy to say goodbye to. Allowing my son to keep his sixth grade long hair just because everyone else was doing it, hearing the complaints about how ‘everyone’ had a phone or a video game system, and all of the quiet competitiveness among parents about just what ‘bricks’ and how many of them they were bringing into their homes and how they measured up with others….ugh. I couldn’t be happier to let all of that stuff go.
But the yarn, I do miss. The characters, stories, and even books that my children would create out in the yard or tucked into a fort made with blankets, teaching them to make mashed potatoes accompanied by the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven and the sound of ‘Prairie Home Companion’ on the radio, building a line of dominoes and then knocking it down, making Christmas candy with the Andrews Sisters on in the background, reading stacks of books together, and dancing every night after dinner. That’s the good stuff; the organic, creative, colorful, heart-to-heart time that we had for a blink of an eye and then was gone. If I could offer any advice to Moms of young children, it would be to build your life with your children, as much as you can, of yarn. Some bricks you’ll need and some you can certainly discard. Leave the plastic out the door. Hug them tight, and everyday, because like all of the older Moms say, the time does fly. Make time and space for yarn, and you’ll knit something beautiful together.